Monday, September 14, 2009

He's Got Legs! - Santa Barbara News-Press

He’s got legs!

Pete Johnson of Santa Barbara is all man, from his head to his toes, in his ActivSkin Legwear for Men, a kind of 'mantyhose' (MIKE ELIASON/NEWS-PRESS PHOTOS)

It takes a real man to test the latest fashion ‘trend’—shapewear for guys. Pete Johnson, co-owner of The Brewhouse, is just the man to do it.

read on for the text from the Santa Barbara News-Press article that featured ActivSkin Legwear...


It happens to women all the time, and now it's happening to a big guy who likes to make beer.

“Oops,” Pete Johnson says from behind a bedroom door at his Santa Barbara house. “I've got a run in them already. They're like pantyhose.”

He had just leaped into “mantyhose.”

Things are now so quiet at his home that you can hear the birds softly chirping outside and the tick, tick, tick of a nearby living room clock.

Mr. Johnson, 54, is thinking.

“Hmmm,” he says, after finding out that putting on the ActivSkin Legwear for Men isn't like throwing on a pair of jeans.
Softly grunting, he tries bunching up the hose. Now he's got it!

He puts shorts on over the leg wear and a T-shirt over a Core Precision undershirt. A few minutes ago, he was wearing the shirt backwards before figuring out which side is the front. It's tagless.

“I feel skinnier already,” Mr. Johnson had said after correctly getting into the shirt, part of men's shapewear. At the News-Press' request, Mr. Johnson agreed to wear a special undershirt and men's leg wear to see their impact on appearance and comfort. The newspaper picked him because he's a fairly big guy at 5 foot 8 and 210 pounds. He admits he has a beer gut. And he's a good sport with a good sense of humor.

In other words, he's the right man for this job.

Now fully dressed, a smiling Mr. Johnson walks proudly out of his bedroom. He doesn't seem to mind the panty– er, mantyhose. “It almost looks like a good tan. I can almost get by; people will think it's just my legs.”

Wearing shorts, a T-shirt and short boots, he walks out to his driveway and puts a tape measure around his waist: 42 inches.

“I lost 2 inches from my belly,” says Mr. Johnson, who already had lost 10 pounds during the past month of dieting and swimming.

Looking again at his legs, he notes, “It doesn't look too bad.
“Actually, it's pretty comfortable,” he says, looking up again. “They're not hot. My clothes go over them pretty easily. It feels fairly normal. It's not grinding. It seems to move naturally.

“I'm going to a Dodgers game,” he says, adding that he might keep them on for that.

His shorts cover the run he had put in the stocking's left leg. “I didn't realize how tight it would be in my leg. I guess it's a skill putting on pantyhose.” He explains he learned quickly to bundle them up.
Did he have any hesitation about trying them on?

“A little bit, but it sounded silly and fun,” Mr. Johnson says. “I make beer for a living; how serious is that?”
Still, “I've never been a fashion model before,” he says with a slight grin. “It did seem kind of strange.”

But not only does he put on the special garments; he keeps them on for most of the day and keeps an informal log about it.

“... 9:35 (a.m.) Sitting, eating is no problem. Still pretty comfortable,” he writes a few minutes after the News-Press leaves him to his adventure.

“ ... 9:55. Clothes slide over these things easily. In fact, my shorts keep falling down. I'm forced to punch a new hole in my belt to keep them up.

“ ... 10:15. I show my wife (at her office at Vista del Monte, a retirement community). Jean (Johnson) doesn't see much change.” (After this, Mr. Johnson drives to The Brewhouse, which he co-owns.)
“ ... 10:55. Starting to itch around my armpits.

“ ... 11:02. I need to use the restroom. Those of who drink beer regularly would appreciate a fly in these things.” (Well, there are some styles with that special feature, Steve Newman, ActivSkin marketing director, later tells the News-Press.)

The News-Press catches up again with Mr. Johnson at a table in the Brewhouse at 2 p.m., just after he talked about the special leg wear with customers. Still wearing the undergarments, he says no one noticed his stockings until he pointed them out. He had talked to three women and four men, a mix of his customers and employees, about it.

“You'd think that would make a visible difference,” he says about being suddenly slimmer. “People diet for a year to lose 2 inches.”

But a bartender expresses surprise as the News-Press tells her Mr. Johnson is wearing hosiery.
“Oh, wow, I didn't notice,” says Amy Roarty, 29, of Santa Barbara, with a genuine look of surprise. “I think it's awesome.”

She adds she doesn't think it makes Mr. Johnson less manly. “Not in this age.”

In fact, a customer, Sheri Benninghoven of Santa Barbara, sitting at a nearby table, compliments Mr. Johnson. “He looks fabulous,” she says, then immediately adds, “He makes quite good beer.”

Terren Braen, the wife of Mr. Johnson's brewery assistant Paul Nichols, is sitting at the bar and says Mr. Johnson had told her that he would be wearing the undergarments.

“I thought he looked pretty good, but if he hadn't pointed it out, I wouldn't have noticed,” she says. “He looks pretty relaxed.”
Not that she's surprised he would wear the garments. “Pete? No, he'll try anything.
“I was teasing him that he should wear it (the manty hose) under lederhosen,” she says, chuckling.

She adds she could imagine other men, including those going to their 20-year high school reunion, wearing the shapewear to look slimmer.
As Mrs. Braen talks, Mr. Johnson doesn't seem embarrassed about wearing the garments.
“I'm fairly secure about my masculinity,” he says, now sitting at a table with a manly drink, a mug of dark beer. “A man does what he pleases and doesn't worry about what anyone else thinks.”

Now there's a little twinkle in his eye. His voice gets a bit softer.

“As long my wife doesn't mind, of course.”
His smile grows bigger.

But Mr. Johnson has changed his mind about one thing: He's not wearing the manty hose to the Dodgers' game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. For one thing, he says, it would be awkward to go into the stadium restroom in Los Angeles.

For another, “I would feel silly sitting there (and watching the game) in pantyhose,” he says.

After getting photographed by the News-Press in his brewery, Mr. Johnson walks toward a rear bathroom to take off the underwear.

He's a little more experienced. Taking off the shirt requires a technique.

“Instead of pulling it over your head, you drop your shoulders and pull your arms out,” he says just before walking into the restroom.

As a few customers chat away in the background, Mr. Johnson quietly removes the mantyhose and shirt. This time he doesn't put a run in it.

“The hose comes off really easily,” he says from behind the bathroom door.

And on that note, with the undergarments now a memory, he leaves for the Dodgers game.

A few days later, Mr. Johnson, who still has the mantyhose and the special shirt, hasn't put them on again. “You know, I'd be surprised if I wore them,” he says by phone. “If I were young and trying to impress women, I'd be likely to, but the main reason I'm attempting to lose weight is to feel better and be healthier. I'm past the time of trying to impress people with my appearance.

“My wife already knows what I look like, and she's the only one I'm trying to impress,” he says.

On the other hand, the undershirt did take 2 inches off his waist. “It's easier than giving up beer,” he says.

And, Mr. Johnson says, the undergarments aren't uncomfortable. “But I'm not wearing high heels.”

Would he, if the News-Press asked him?

“Probably not,” he says with a big smile.

This man will go only so far.


Wearing “mantyhose” makes the legs feel better.

So said Steve Newman, 49. Mr. Newman started wearing ActivSkin Legwear for Men before he became the marketing director in March for Granville, Ohio-based GLS Hosiery, which has manufactured the leg wear since 1999.

He said the mantyhose has helped his and other men's legs to feel more comfortable during workouts such as long bike rides. He credited the leg wear for reducing aches and cramps, improving circulation in the legs and compressing the leg muscles so they don't bounce during a workout.

He noted football players like wearing the hosiery for games in cold climates and that he likes to wear them during his runs on cold mornings. In addition, he said, horse riders like the hosiery because it prevents chafing.
The ActivSkin line began when Steve Katz, a friend of Mr. Newman, started GLS Hosiery to provide a product for men who had, for various comfort-related reasons, been wearing pantyhose.

Sales have grown consistently and are up 20 percent from last year, Mr. Newman said. But he noted many men haven't wanted their friends and family to know they're wearing the leg wear. “They were afraid of being teased about mantyhose. But that has started to change. We've heard from our customers that a lot of them are wearing them more openly.”

As more men wear the product, the stigma has decreased, he said. Today, about 40 percent of ActivSkin customers are men ages 45 to 55 and 35 percent are between 35 and 45.

Not sold in stores, ActivSkin Legwear for Men is available at Prices vary from $6.99 to $17.99.

Customers ordering at the site can get a 10 percent discount by typing in the code word, GNRA22.

Styles are both sheer and opaque, and colors are tan, black and beige. Some of the opaque hosiery is footless.

For more information, read Mr. Newman's blog at

Men have seen their waist reduced by as much as 3 inches after putting on Core Precision undershirts, according to Corie Chung, Ecumen co-founder and marketing director.

And the shirt compresses flab elsewhere and makes everything firmer, Miss Chung said by phone from New York City.

Core Precision undershirts are being sold at and The nearest Saks Fifth Avenue store that sells them is in Beverly Hills.

Ecumen, which manufactures the shirts through a plant in Israel, is headquartered in Sydney, Australia.

Prices are $89 for tank tops, $99 for short-sleeved shirts and $109 for long-sleeved tops.
Customers have credited the shirts with improving their posture, Miss Chung said. She added the shirts may help customers relieve their back pain. She said her company worked with a physical therapist in designing it.

The specially designed Lycra-polyester shirts compress “love handles” and other flab by pulling back on the shoulders, she said. The focus, she explained, is on the body core, which includes the waist area and the back behind it.

“It adjusts your body mass to all the right places,” she said.

The shirts, which are similar to gym workout tops, pulls moisture away from the body, she said. “The fabric is very breathable. “It actually makes you feel thinner,” she said. “It's shaped like the body you'd like to have, and you can use it to get the body you'd like to have during workouts.”

She said sales have grown as more men have become aware of the shirts. “We don't use the word ‘shapewear.’ We call it precision wear, fitness wear. ‘Shapewear’ is more of a female term.”

Men, she said, are concerned about having a sculptured, muscular look.

“It does show off your muscles,” she said, but added, “It's not faking; there's no padding.”

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